Women of Science
Throughout history, women have been consistently underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. However, despite the odds stacked against them, women have made significant contributions to science throughout history. Today, women in science represent an unstoppable force of power and intelligence, unlocking the secrets of the universe and exploring technologies that will shape the future.
Women of Science: The Past
The contributions of women to science date back centuries. One of the most historically notable woman scientists is Marie Curie, who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize–and the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry. Curie is famous for her work on radioactivity, which led to the discovery of two new elements, polonium, and radium. Despite facing discrimination and limited resources as a woman in science, Curie's persistence and dedication to her work earned her the recognition of the Nobel organization.
Other women in science from the past include Ada Lovelace, who is credited with writing the first computer program, and Rosalind Franklin, whose work in x-ray crystallography helped to discover the double helix structure of DNA. Unfortunately, these women were not always recognized for their contributions during their lifetimes due to systemic discrimination against women in STEM areas.
Women of Science: The Present
Today, women continue to make significant contributions to science. Katie Bouman is an astrophysicist who was a key member of the team that took the first photograph of a black hole. Bouman's algorithm played a crucial role in the development of the image, and she has since become a symbol of the increasing representation of women in STEM fields.
Women are also making strides in the tech industry, where they have historically been underrepresented. In 2020, HBCUvc, a nonprofit that trains students from historically black colleges and universities in venture capital, reported that 40% of its cohort were women. This is a significant increase from the 8.6% representation of women in traditional venture capital firms.1
Another exciting area of research spearheaded by women is the explosion of actionable insights in the area of behavioral science, for example, Dr. Angela Duckworth, best-selling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and Dr. Katy Milkman, best-selling author of How to Change Anything launched the Behavior Change For Good Initiative at Wharton which united a world-class, interdisciplinary team of academic experts with leading organizational partners to help advance the science and practice of behavior change. Their work identifies what works at scale by conducting mega-studies (massive random-assignment A/B tests), in which they simultaneously test our scientific team’s best ideas for changing a target behavior–in areas such as health, finances, and vaccine compliance among others. Their approach seeks to understand which strategies work best overall, what works best for whom, and how to most effectively use behavioral science to transform people’s lives for the better.
In addition to increasing representation, women are also making significant contributions to research. For example, Dr. Jennifer Doudna is a biochemist who co-invented the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology. This technology has the potential to revolutionize medicine by allowing scientists to edit genes and potentially cure genetic diseases. Dr. Doudna's work has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.
Women of Science: The Future
As we move into the 21st century and beyond, it is clear that women will continue to play a significant role in science. One area of forthcoming significant contributions is the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. These fields have the potential to revolutionize numerous industries, from healthcare to finance.
Already, women are making significant contributions to the development of AI and ML technologies. For example, Fei-Fei Li is a computer scientist who has worked on developing computer vision systems. Her contribution has the potential to improve autonomous vehicles and other robotic systems, and she is a leading voice in the AI community.
The development of renewable energy technologies is another area where women are expected to make significant contributions. With the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are becoming more important than ever. Women are already making strides in this area, with scientists like Dr. Sarah Kurtz working on developing new solar cell technologies.
Here at Viome, women are integral players on our science and technology teams as we continue to charge forward on our mission toward putting healthcare back in the hands of people, and making illness a matter of choice rather than bad luck. Our teammates Lan Hu, Ph.D. leads Bioinformatics and Data Science, and Cristina Julian, Ph.D. leads Epidemiological Research, and both contribute to groundbreaking discoveries from the world’s largest database of human and microbial gene expression. Another member of our Clinical Research team, Diana Demusaj, contributes to compiling new scientific data from our ongoing clinical study initiatives with research participants from all around the world.
The Unstoppable Force
Women have always been a part of the scientific community, but their contributions have often been overlooked or undervalued. However, women of science - past, present, and future - represent an indomitable combination of intellectual ability and influential strength. From Marie Curie to Katie Bouman, women have made significant contributions to science throughout history, and they continue to do so today. Women are making strides in increasing representation in STEM fields, and they are making significant contributions to research, technology development, and innovation.
As we move forward, it is essential to recognize the importance of increasing representation and diversity in STEM fields. Women and other underrepresented groups bring unique perspectives and experiences that can lead to exciting new discoveries and innovations. Additionally, increased diversity in STEM fields can lead to better solutions for problems that affect people from all backgrounds.
In tandem, it’s critical to also make sure that women are equally represented and studied within the research too. Only recently, with the signing of the NIH Revitalization Act on June 10, 1993, were women required to be included in clinical research. Before that women are treated as smaller versions of men which meant that many modern medical practitioners use protocols that are based on research performed exclusively on male bodies. Beyond that risk, the lack of understanding of differences in male and female bodies has implications for future research and our general foundation of scientific knowledge. Luckily, a number of important initiatives such as Equal Research Day are now driving attention and efforts to bridge the gender health gap.2
It is crucial to provide opportunities and support for women in STEM fields. This includes mentorship programs, networking events, and funding for research and development. These resources can help women in science to overcome the challenges and obstacles that they may face in pursuing their careers.
From the past to the present, women have made significant contributions to science and technology. With increased representation, support, and opportunities, they have the power to unlock the secrets of the universe and explore technologies that will shape the future for generations to come. We must celebrate and uplift the achievements of women in science, and strive for a future where diversity and representation are prioritized in STEM fields.
1 A. Kersten, G. Athanasia. (2022). [Gender imbalance in venture capital firms]. Csis.org
2 P. Jain, L. Bruzek. (2022). [Gender gap in health research]. fortune.com